Sunday, October 30, 2016

A thoughtful endorsement of Hillary Clinton

A thoughtful endorsement for Hillary Clinton for President from The New Yorker: "On every issue of consequence, including economic policy, the environment, and foreign affairs, Hillary Clinton is a distinctly capable candidate: experienced, serious, schooled, resilient. "
http://bit.ly/2eIxwGM #ImWithHer
 
The election of Hillary Clinton is an event that we would welcome for its historical importance, and greet with indescribable relief.
newyorker.com|By The Editors


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Florida Conservation Voters - New hope for Florida's natural environment

Recently, I received an email from a new organization called Florida Conservation Voters. If you love Florida, you might want to take a moment to think about what it says, but first let me share my thoughts.
 
For several years, about 8 now, it has become clear that our political representation in Tallahassee has turned away from concern and care for what makes our great state what it is, its natural systems. Without its natural systems in robust good health, Florida's economy, which is so dependent upon a quality experience for the 100-plus million visitors that come to enjoy them each year, is doomed. Anyone who has lived here more than just few years can quickly recount examples of how much better our lakes, our forests, our coasts, our wildlife, our rivers - the list is endless - used to be. 
 
On many occasions and political levels, I have lamented the fact that the state's natural environment, specifically its protection and restoration, has no real political voice. Yes, there are environmental groups like Audubon, Sierra Club and a host of other very prominent and effective conservation voices out there but most if not all of them raise money to exist and to pay for their ability to raise questions and educate about environmental issues of concern. None of these organizations, however, to my knowledge are lawfully authorized to be able to raise and spend money to contribute to a campaign or advocate the election or defeat of a specific politician as special interests and their lobbyists do. This has been a huge weakness, in my opinion, in the ability of the environmental community to be able to get the attention of elected officials the way special interests have. Simply and sadly put, money speaks.
 
The email I received from Florida Conservation Voters raises new hope that this weakness is being overcome and I for one am going to support it all I can. Whether you are a D, R, or I, please visit their website at http://www.fcvoters.org/ and support them. Your children and theirs will thank you. Here's the email:
 
From: Jonathan Webber <contact@fcvoters.org>
Date: October 20, 2016 at 12:22:57 PM EDT
 
Dear Sonny,
For too long, Tallahassee politicians have been allowed to vote against our environment at the Capitol, then claim to be environmental heroes during election time. It is our job (this means you, too!) to make sure our elected officials know that Florida’s environment is more than just a campaign talking point. No matter your party or district, Florida’s parks, waterways, and conservation lands matter to the future of our state.
 
Together, we are building a new movement in Florida – where conservation doesn’t have a party.
 
Sincerely,
Jonathan Webber
Deputy Director
Florida Conservation Voters

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"And so it has come to this" - John Moran

I'm ever thankful there is someone who so accurately sees how natural Florida is under siege and who is willing to step up and, with the clarity of a cloudless spring day in Florida, say what must be said with such precision and plain truth that we cannot look away.  That person is John Moran and this is what he said in newspapers around the state just now. It is well that you consider what he has to say.      - Sandspur 
 
And so it has come to this. What was once Florida’s family secret is now in full view for all the world to see.
 
The word is out: We’ve been terrible stewards of our waters, and we have the international news headlines to show for it.

John Moran
“Guacamole-thick algae” washes ashore on the beaches of the state the governor ironically promotes as “the world’s top tourist destination.” And a huge swath of Lake Okeechobee is covered in lurid green slime, visible from space.
 
Florida’s water woes isn’t a new story, of course. This is just an old tale reaching a wider audience.
 
The details may differ but our springs and rivers and lakes and coastal waters have been heading south for many years.
 
If a lie can destroy a reputation, so too can the truth. And the pictures don’t lie. If a state could declare environmental bankruptcy, Florida today would be in Chapter 11.
 
The sliming of our waters is a growing public health threat, a deepening environmental crisis, a looming economic disaster and a public relations nightmare.
 
And we can’t blame the Army Corps of Engineers, or the EPA or an Act of God. Look in the mirror, Florida. We did this.  In crisis there is opportunity, but it’s instructive to first consider the back story.
 
A long time ago our political leaders saw clearly that Florida was headed down an unsustainable path. “Ecological destruction in Florida is nothing less than economic suicide,” declared Gov. Reubin Askew in 1971.
 
A year later the Legislature passed landmark water management reforms, widely hailed as a national model of wise governance.
 
The decades passed, the pendulum swung and a new message – casting Florida’s environmental protection and growth management laws as irksome impediments – was packaged and propelled with a megaphone only deep pockets can buy.
 
And the guiding ethos in Tallahassee shifted from a view of natural Florida as a special place to be tended with stewardship, to a view of natural Florida as a commodity to be exploited for profit.
 
Upholding our social contract with the future gave way to magical thinking. Blinded by the myth of endless water abundance, we ignored the truth that choices have consequences and the table was set for the mess we face today.
 
And now we have the 2016 Water Bill, widely seen as a give-away to Big Ag and Big Business: So many words, so little protection.
 
Nature is resilient but only to a degree. Florida is a place where 20 million people make daily choices around water which seem entirely “reasonable” to them. We have seen the net result of all that reasonableness and it is not a pretty picture.
 
Our waters are a mess and we know how we got here:
• Groundwater overpumping;
• Pollution from fertilizer, and human and animal waste;
• A failure of responsible government oversight;
• Businesses that value their private profits over our public waters; and
• Lack of civic engagement.
 
We are running out of fresh water. By the state’s own estimates, Central Florida will tap out legacy water supplies within 15 years.
 
Yet, astonishingly, we continue to pour half our household water budget on the ground for lawns and landscaping.
 
The pollutants we spread on our farms and lawns, or flush down our drains, don’t just go away. Some portion of that stuff ends up in our drinking water or fuels the slime fouling our springs and beaches.
 
With a changing climate, warmer waters will make these problems worse, as evidenced by the toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that left half a million Ohio residents without drinking water two summers ago.
 
And scientists are studying a link between cyanobacteria found in polluted Florida waters and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and ALS.
 
We Floridians are a curious lot. We tend to change our behavior only in times of crisis, and we tend to elect politicians whose brains are wired to perceive a chance encounter with a mosquito carrying the Zika virus as a greater threat than the colossal disruption posed by the collapse of our waters.
 
We are missing the big picture, in part because no Florida political leader has the honesty and courage to tell us that our lifestyle choices and business practices are destroying our springs and rivers and lakes and coastal waters.
 
When it comes to inspiring the embrace of a new water ethic – in which we use less and pollute less – the silence in Tallahassee is deafening.
 
My message to our political leadership is clear: It is the earth that lies at the very center of our existence and makes possible life itself, to say nothing of
human endeavors like the economy.
 
That line about “the business of government is business” is shallow and shortsighted. We must aim higher: The business of government is well-being.
 
And to our business leaders, I say there can be no long term well-being in Florida if we continue to use and abuse our waters like there’s no tomorrow.
 
Will this be our watershed moment? We get to decide, Florida. May wisdom be our guide.
_____________________________________________
 
John Moran is a renown, award-winning  Florida nature photographer and clean water advocate.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

"How Florida Republicans (and we) Became Losers"


This Huffington Post article by Alan Farago lays bare the crude facts and dangerous failures of Republican Leadership fostered by Rick Scott, Joe Negron, Pam Bondi, and Adam Putnam since 2010.  With the upcoming elections, it would be our foolishness to let that failure continue in any form.  Whether you're Democrat or Republican, leadership that will return the state to an educated respect and countenanced balance between the need for protection of property rights while effectively and scientifically protecting and preserving what remains of Florida's natural systems is existentially important for Florida if the way of life it now provides us is to be sustained. - Sandspur

 Some Quotes from the article:

"Massive toxic algae blooming around the southern half of the Florida peninsula, coating public health, tourism, business and real estate on both Florida coasts with dangerous scum, is the real consequence to taxpayers and voters of losing their bet on Republican leadership: Gov. Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, state representative Matt Caldwell, US Senator Marco Rubio, and all the insiders and cronies they corralled to serve on boards like the water management districts and Public Service Commission. This isn’t hyperbole. A real bet was made by voters. A real bet was lost."

"One of Gov. Rick Scott’s first acts as governor was to axe the science budget and staff at the state agency charged with protecting fresh water resources in Florida. By eliminating scientists at the South Florida Water Management District, Scott erased the institutional memory of an agency nominally charged with balancing the needs of people and the environment with the needs of industry. Specifically, Big Sugar."

"Scott appointed members of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District with no experience or compassion for the environment. The Scott way distilled to a simple formula: cede regulatory control to special interests who had the most to earn by limiting the impact of regulation on their profit models."

(Scott was systematic through out the state doing the same thing at all five of its water management districts and its Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Community Affairs - Sandspur)

"Florida’s shadow government, exemplified by Big Sugar, could not have been more pleased. Scott, as a newbie, needed training. He came to Tallahassee without a game plan or qualified staff. He would need to be brought up-to-speed and who better to bring him up-to-speed than the shadow government comprised of lobbyists and insiders who populate the state capitol, Tallahassee, and report back to employers in Palm Beach, Tampa, Jacksonville, Naples and Miami. Scott was, fortuitously, exactly what the shadow government had been looking for all along: a smart guy perfectly in sync to streamline their profits by eliminating government regulatory functions to the maximum practical extent."

(The writer must have been in audiences I've been speaking to for the last 5 years.  This is almost verbatim what I've been saying. See my presentation notes - https://www.dropbox.com/s/zk53mipiiunc03h/2015-12-11%20FlSpgsInst-New%202.docx?dl=0 - from a talk I gave to the Florida Springs Institute on 12-11-2015- Pages 5-14                          - Sandspur)

"Today’s ecological collapse in the St. Lucie River, connected estuaries, in the Caloosahatchee River, along both Florida coasts and stretching down through the Everglades to Florida Bay is a neon sign flashing in front of taxpayers and voters. When Gov. Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Adam Putnam killed the US Sugar deal, they ignored the history and science of Lake Okeechobee, the massive fresh-water lake in the middle of Florida. Scott had already eliminated the science capacity of the state water district. By allowing political science to trump fact and the imperative for government intervention, Florida’s GOP created political conditions for deadly cyanobacteria to destroy the treasures of South Florida, including public health and personal real estate"

"If Democratic voters are furious, what is the word to describe Republican voters in Florida? Losers. Losers, because over a long period of time, they elected Republicans who turned their back on history, on bipartisan consensus and the lessons of the past. They did so with the confidence that insiders and special interests could protect the public better than regulations and enforcement because they get paid when customers are happy.

See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-farago/how-florida-republicans-b_b_10715792.html

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oddly immune to the fire, Brian Armstrong, new ED at SWFWMD

Brian Armstrong has just been named the next Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.  That declaration will be followed in all the media releases that will now gush forth from DEP and SWFWMD with, "by the Governing Board." 

Brian should be congratulated, I suppose, because anyone who thinks the ED's job at a water management district these days under Rick Scott and his back channel manipulators can still do environmental good should be.  However anyone who thinks it was the Governing Board of the District that made the decision to place him there has not been paying attention.  These jobs are not left to any chance that someone not locked and chained to CEO Scott's anti-environmental mantra, or said another way, hasn't drunk the kool aid, might make the wrong decision. So it isn't likely a group of head bobbing political wannabees are going to be left for the task. 

No.  Street rumor has it that Brian's appointment is the handy work of none other than Scott's transition team sub-committee chairman on regulation and the guy who oversaw development of the committee's plan to take down Florida's nationally respected environmental regulatory protection mechanisms, Tampa lawyer and current general counsel of the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, Doug Manson.

Rumor also has it that Brian, oddly immune from all the fire that was swirling around SWFWMD at the time, was under consideration for the job years ago when the first raids on district funding and staff were getting underway, but the thought was that his executive management experience was too thin.  So, he was spirited away to get that experience as assistant executive director at the DEP Tampa office when that organization was being put through a sausage grinder, and then later brought back to SWFWMD as the assistant ED in waiting.   Now that SWFWMD's most recent Scott-appointed political fodder for an ED, Robert Beltran, has been cast to the winds of rejection, for who knows why, Brian is there to take charge just as planned.  Problem is, all this has nothing to do with the fact that it's the governing board's responsibility to fill the position, not political operatives from Tallahassee who couldn't give a wit less about Florida's natural systems.  Just another reason why "locally appointed" governing boards have become a joke and are there only to protect the substantial ad valorem taxing authority of the districts without which such political plums like a water supply for central Florida could not be funded.

Now, is all this just more methane in a windstorm?  I really don't know.  It will all be denied, certainly.  But the rumor mill is churning and for the poor souls still working at SWFWMD, and by emotional extension for the other WMD's, it's just more stink to add to what will be Scott's ruthless anti- environmental legacy, like that stench rising from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.  Brian will hopefully be able to operate as he might, with the professional freedom to base his decisions on good science and not Doug Manson's political objectives, but I'm not holding my breath ... my nose, yes, but not my breath.

Sandspur

Oddly immune to the fire, Brian Armstrong, new ED at SWFWMD

Brian Armstrong has just been named the next Executive Director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.  That declaration will be followed in all the media releases that will now gush forth from DEP and SWFWMD with, "by the Governing Board." 

Brian should be congratulated, I suppose, because anyone who thinks the ED's job at a water management district these days under Rick Scott and his back channel manipulators can still do environmental good should be.  However anyone who thinks it was the Governing Board of the District that made the decision to place him there has not been paying attention.  These jobs are not left to any chance that someone not locked and chained to CEO Scott's anti-environmental mantra, or said another way, hasn't drunk the kool aid, might make the wrong decision. So it isn't likely a group of head bobbing political wannabees are going to be left for the task. 

No.  Street rumor has it that Brian's appointment is the handy work of none other than Scott's transition team sub-committee chairman on regulation and the guy who oversaw development of the committee's plan to take down Florida's nationally respected environmental regulatory protection mechanisms, Tampa lawyer and current general counsel of the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, Doug Manson.

Rumor also has it that Brian, oddly immune from all the fire that was swirling around SWFWMD at the time, was under consideration for the job years ago when the first raids on district funding and staff were getting underway, but the thought was that his executive management experience was too thin.  So, he was spirited away to get that experience as assistant executive director at the DEP Tampa office when that organization was being put through a sausage grinder, and then later brought back to SWFWMD as the assistant ED in waiting.   Now that SWFWMD's most recent Scott-appointed political fodder for an ED, Robert Beltran, has been cast to the winds of rejection, for who knows why, Brian is there to take charge just as planned.  Problem is, all this has nothing to do with the fact that it's the governing board's responsibility to fill the position, not political operatives from Tallahassee who couldn't give a wit less about Florida's natural systems.  Just another reason why "locally appointed" governing boards have become a joke and are there only to protect the substantial ad valorem taxing authority of the districts without which such political plums like a water supply for central Florida could not be funded.

Now, is all this just more methane in a windstorm?  I really don't know.  It will all be denied, certainly.  But the rumor mill is churning and for the poor souls still working at SWFWMD, and by emotional extension for the other WMD's, it's just more stink to add to what will be Scott's ruthless anti- environmental legacy, like that stench rising from the Indian River lagoon.  Brian will hopefully be able to operate as he might, with the professional freedom to base his decisions on good science and not Doug Manson's political objectives, but I'm not holding my breath ... my nose, yes, but not my breath.

Sandspur

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ready to say adios to the Republican Party



A friend of mine emailed me some cartoons recently.  Here are a few words by two of the cartoon characters that reflect the humor they were supposed to elicit:
Character 1: "There's a super PAC called 'Ready for Hillary'.  What exactly does it mean to be Ready for Hillary"?
Character 2: "It's like being ready for prostate exam ... that will last for eight years."

____________________________________________________

This was my radically measured response:
I’m getting ready to leave the Republican Party, my friend.  The GOP is lost. It has endorsed a racist, sexist, egomaniacal, hate-baiter as its candidate for president and yet it continues to demonize and ridicule Hillary Clinton and our twice-elected President, Barack Obama, which suggests it would rather have a nut-case as president and risk whatever catastrophe he will surely cause as a result of his buffoonery and ignorance than another choice who would not.
Your party, apparently the Tea Party, is so doctrinally rigid it is ready to destroy the country rather than admit it has nothing to offer, absolutely nothing, by way of positive, constructive solutions for some of the most complex and dangerous problems this country has ever faced.  Tell me one tenet the Tea Party espouses that will benefit a majority of the people in this country.  Carpet bombing?  Isolationism? Nuclear war? Economic inequality? The Tea Party holds up the Constitution as if only it knows how to read it.  It has run the GOP and the ability of this country to govern itself into a ditch and given our country the worst recession in its history.  GOP propaganda falsely blames the Democrats for what clearly was caused by the Bush’s - two wars that cost trillions that were never properly financed, which were initiated under false pretenses (WMD’s) and which ultimately resulted in disastrous middle eastern governmental vacuums, religious genocide, the birth of ISIS and a lethal religion-based terrorism from which we can neither extricate nor protect ourselves. The Party is in denial and because it will not face the truth that its failure to find common ground, a fundamental prerequisite for a democracy, is the singular most obvious cause for the deadly paralysis and failure now infecting the highest levels of our government. What used to be moderate Republican principles are now socialism and liberalism.  Nothing short of the irrational alarms spewed from the radical right is acceptable.  You’re right I don’t like the cartoons.  I think they’re foolish and dangerous when Trump is the apparent alternative.  What is your purpose for sending them around? Are you supporting Trump?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The GOP ...blindly dedicated to the reasons they're about to self destruct

I've published over 188 posts on this blog and if there are any themes that might be discernable amidst all those perhaps slightly energetic offerings, it is this.  The doctrinal tenets the GOP shout from their right wing pulpits, as if it is the gospel straight out of the "good book," is odorous nonsense.  To wit:

1) No government is small enough or even needed - none;

2) There are no reasons whatsoever that can justify the existence of, much less an increase in, taxes - none;

3) There is no justification whatsoever for any regulation that constrains free enterprise in any way - none;

4) There is no program designed to assist poor, downtrodden, sick, aged or infirm humans that is not socialism - none;

5) There are no valid bases for thinking the importance of healthy, protected and preserved natural systems is critical to the economic future of this state and country - none

6) All capitalist endeavors that turn a profit, no matter the long-term or tragic consequences upon society, are by definition both morally and spiritually justified under the guise of free enterprise - all

7) Being believed is more important than whether or not one is telling the truth - honesty no longer matters

8) No matter the positive value or importance to our country, nothing fostered, initiated or supported by Barack Obama is right, good or worthwhile - nothing. He's a Democrat

9) No matter the truth, Reagan was never a Democrat, a moderate or suffered dementia while still in office - never

10) Even if we are a country of the people, by the people and for the people, it does not mean we are the government - that's somebody else

So when President Obama gave the following speech in Flint the other day, I felt something of the sense that, just maybe, I haven't been too far off.  The GOP have suffered their party major if not fatal harm by adopting and blindly defending tenets that are so weighted toward serving their party and moneyed special interests rather than their country, their base has left them and is running lemming-like behind Donald Trump ever closer to the precipice of complete and utter national embarrassment, or worse.  They have chosen hemlock over gridlock.  According to a friend, "It can't be explained more succinctly ..." than the way our President did.

President Obama
And it's a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good no matter what. It's a mindset that says environmental rules designed to keep your water clean or your air clean are optional, or not that important, or unnecessarily burden businesses or taxpayers. It's an ideology that undervalues the common good, says we're all on our own and what's in it for me, and how do I do well, but I'm not going to invest in what we need as a community. And, as a consequence, you end up seeing an underinvestment in the things that we all share that make us safe, that make us whole, that give us the ability to pursue our own individual dreams. So we underinvest in pipes underground. We underinvest in bridges that we drive on, and the roads that connect us, and the schools that move us forward. And this is part of the attitude, this is part of the mindset.
We especially underinvest when the communities that are put at risk are poor, or don't have a lot of political clout and so are not as often heard in the corridors of power. And this kind of thinking—this myth that government is always the enemy; that forgets that our government is us—it's us; that it's an extension of us, ourselves—that attitude is as corrosive to our democracy as the stuff that resulted in lead in your water. Because what happens is it leads to systematic neglect. It leads to carelessness and callousness. It leads to a lot of hidden disasters that you don't always read about and aren't as flashy, but that over time diminish the life of a community and make it harder for our young people to succeed.
So it doesn't matter how hard you work, how responsible you are, or how well you raise your kids—you can't set up a whole water system for a city. That's not something you do by yourself. You do it with other people. You can't hire your own fire department, or your own police force, or your own army. There are things we have to do together—basic things that we all benefit from. And that's how we invested in a rail system and a highway system. That's how we invested in public schools. That's how we invested in science and research. These how we invested in community colleges and land grant colleges like Michigan State.
But volunteers don't build county water systems and keep lead from leaching into our drinking glasses. We can't rely on faith groups to reinforce bridges and repave runways at the airport. We can't ask second-graders, even ones as patriotic as Isiah Britt who raised all that money, to raise enough money to keep our kids healthy. You hear a lot about government overreach, how Obama—he's for big government. Listen, it's not government overreach to say that our government is responsible for making sure you can wash your hands in your own sink, or shower in your own home, or cook for your family. These are the most basic services. There is no more basic element sustaining human life than water. It's not too much to expect for all Americans that their water is going to be safe.

Sandspur 

Monday, January 25, 2016


An editorial published Sunday, January 24, 2016, by the Ocala Star Banner .  Please see the entire original article here: http://www.ocala.com/article/20160124/OPINION01/160129902

Editorial: Water policy fails Floridians


If we didn’t know better, we would have thought the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott had achieved a major milestone for our state this week with the governor’s signing of Florida’s new water policy on Thursday. Because the celebration that took place in Tallahassee suggested this was a game-changer, the long-awaited “policy” that Florida desperately needs to clean up and preserve its water supply.

But Senate Bill 552 falls far short of any semblance of serious water policy. It is so flawed that former Gov. Bob Graham, in a letter to Scott, said the water bill “represents a purposeful effort to weaken protection and management of Florida’s water resources.”

Four years in the making, it took two legislative sessions to pass this policy failure. Graham is right — the bill does nothing to curb water consumption and little to slow the flow of pollutants into our rivers, lakes and springs.

Maybe worse, it is a outright gift to big business, especially agriculture. Not only does it loosen pollution enforcement standards, it actually allows Big Ag to monitor itself. The bill relies on so-called “best management practices” that set goals for large water users — but they have decades to meet the goals, there are no penalties or fines written into the law and no provisions are in place to add inspectors to make sure farmers and industry are adhering to the best practices.

To add insult to injury, our lawmakers included a “cost sharing” program that actually requires water management districts to subsidize Big Ag’s pollution control efforts. Yes, the taxpayers of Florida will pay so Big Ag can clean up the mess it created.
 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sen. Bob Graham: SB 552 fails Florida and its unique natural systems; has "egregious" problems"

In a letter dated today, January 20, 2016, the Florida Conservation Coalition, composed of over 50 charter member and affiliate organizations and a thousand concerned individuals, urged Governor Rick Scott to veto Senate Bill 552 saying there are "egregious" problems with the bill:

 "... provisions blatantly favoring special interests, tying the hands of the Water Management Districts by further weakening current water protections, and largely ignoring the two most important requirements to protect these resources: conservation and stopping pollution at its source. Frankly stated, this bill leaves the people and businesses of Florida unprepared to meet the water challenges of the 21st century." 
 
The letter was signed by former Florida Governor and United States Senator, Bob Graham, and endorsed by over thirty highly respected environmental organizations that have been unsuccessfully trying to get the legislature amend the bill. 
In his letter, Senator Graham urged Governor Scott to,
 
“… demand that the legislature send you a bill that focuses on conserving our finite water resources to meet the demands of Florida’s people, industry and agriculture for generations to come. Insist that the legislature send you a bill that controls pollution at its source now, instead of allowing new sources of pollution to continue to degrade our aquifers, lakes, rivers, springs, and estuaries.
 
Here is the letter in full: 

January 20, 2016
 
Governor Rick Scott
Plaza Level 05, The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0001
 
Dear Governor Scott:
 
The Florida Conservation Coalition is composed of over 50 charter member and affiliate organizations and a thousand concerned individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s water, land, and wildlife. We are writing you today to ask for your veto of SB 552.
 
This 134 page bill represents a purposeful effort to weaken protection and management of Florida’s water resources. It will result in further corrosion of what was once hailed as the water management standard of the Nation. The extraordinary procedural requirements will not advance, but hinder protection and restoration of our water resources, and the negative results will outweigh the benefits of the bill.  
Water, Florida’s most precious natural resource, is threatened by over-withdrawals, waste and pollution. Although there are good elements in this bill, they come at too high a cost: provisions blatantly favoring special interests, tying the hands of the Water Management Districts by further weakening current water protections, and largely ignoring the two most important requirements to protect these resources: conservation and stopping pollution at its source. Frankly stated, this bill leaves the people and businesses of Florida unprepared to meet the water challenges of the 21st century.
 
There are egregious problems with SB 552. For example:
 
· All significant users of the citizens’ water should be required to monitor their use. This bill contains a loophole that will exempt many consumptive water users from monitoring.
 
· The bill inhibits water management districts from denying consumptive use permits. When statute or rule requires districts to deny a permit, they should not be subjected to new and additional oversight by the Department of Environmental Protection. The bill’s potential requirement for multiple complete rewrites of the Regional Water Supply Plan imposes an inordinate administrative and financial burden on districts.
 
· The bill weakens the concept that every district in Florida should aim to be water self-sufficient by easing inter-district transfers. Water Management Districts should not be allowed to unilaterally plunder water from already stressed water bodies in other districts.
 
· Public private partnerships are lauded throughout the bill, with unclear mandates that such partnerships be cost-effective and in the public interest. Citizens’ tax dollars should not be given to private entities without a clear determination that the citizens will benefit.
 
· Several Florida regions are running out of water. This legislation relies on alternative water supply projects, such as surface water withdrawals, which are unsustainable and damaging to other regions of the state. The only sure and safe source of additional water for environmental protection and economic growth is water conservation.
 
The current state of Florida’s waters is proof that we need stronger controls on pollution now - not decades from now. There is still time. The legislature has barely finished its first week of session. We ask you to stand up for the water bodies and aquifers that provide Florida’s drinking water and make industries like Florida’s tourism, agriculture and seafood industries possible by sending this bill back to the legislature today.
 
Governor Scott, demand that the legislature send you a bill that focuses on conserving our finite water resources to meet the demands of Florida’s people, industry and agriculture for generations to come. Insist that the legislature send you a bill that controls pollution at its source now, instead of allowing new sources of pollution to continue to degrade our aquifers, lakes, rivers, springs, and estuaries.
Furthermore, we must realize that any effort to restore and protect Florida’s waters will require significant investments in scientific research, remediation, infrastructure, agency staffing, and land acquisition. The provisions in this bill are meaningless if they’re not adequately funded. For example, sufficient staff will have to be hired to effectively monitor the use of best management practices around the state. Governor Scott, signing this bill will require a review and revision of your budget proposal as it relates to the direct state responsibilities under this legislation and an assurance to Florida’s water management districts that they will be allowed to set ad valorem tax rates as needed to fulfill their obligations.
 
As the annual progress reports required under this bill are sent to the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, it will become slowly and painfully apparent that this bill has failed to abate Florida’s water quantity and quality problems, which are already severe. The legislators responsible for SB 552 will be out of office long before Florida officially fails to meet the deadlines for success set in this bill. Do not let short-sighted plans be your legacy. Florida, its citizens, and its future deserve more for our most valuable natural resource, water.
 
Sincerely,
 
Bob Graham, Chairman of the Florida Conservation Coalition
 
The following organizations, including FCC affiliates, have officially endorsed this letter:  
 
Alachua Audubon Society, Anne Casella, President
Anglers for Conservation, Rodney Smith, President
Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Dan Tonsmeire, President
Audubon Society of the Everglades, Paton White, President
Brevard NOW, Vicki Impoco, President
BullSugar.org, Kenny Hinkle Jr., President
Center for Earth Jurisprudence, Sister Pat Siemen, OP, Esq., Director
City of Seminole Community Garden, Mary Ann Kirk, Garden Secretary
Clean Water Action, Kathleen E. Aterno, National Managing Director and Florida Director
Concerned Citizens of Bayshore Community, Steve Brodkin, President
"Ding" Darling Wildlife Society, Doris D. Hardy, President
E. Allen Steward III P.E. Environmental and Engineering Consultant, E. Allen Stewart II P.E., Owner
Earth Ethics, Mary Gutierrez, Executive Director
EarthWeb Foundation, Josephine Balzac, Chief Environmental Officer
Environment Florida, Jennifer Rubiello, State Director
Estero Council of Community Leaders, Pete Cangialosi, Environmental Director
Florida Consumer Action Network, Susan McGrath, Executive Director
Florida Defenders of the Environment, Inc., Thomas Hawkins, Executive Director
Florida Native Plant Society, Suzanne Valencia, President of the Conradina Chapter
Florida Springs Council, Dan Hilliard, President
Florida Water Conservation Trust, Terry Brant, Legislative Chairman
Friends of the Everglades, Alan Farago, President
Friends of St. Sebastian River, Tim Glover, President
Friends of Warm Mineral Springs, Juliette Jones, Director
Ichetucknee Alliance, John Jopling, President
Indian River Democratic Executive Committee, Debra Messer, Environmental Chair
Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, Riverkeeper
Izaak Walton League of America, Michael F. Chenoweth, President of the Florida Division
John Kumiski Fishing Charters, John Kumisiki, Captain
Lake Area Water Alliance, Jackie Host, President
Lake Rosa Lake Swan Homeowner Association, Bev Ritter, President
Lobby for Animals, Thomas Ponce, Founder
Matanzas Riverkeeper, Neil Armingeon, Riverkeeper
Miami Waterkeeper, Rachel Silverstein, Ph.D., Executive Director & Waterkeeper
Our Santa Fe River Inc., Pamela I. Smith, President
Preserve Brevard, Vince Lamb, Chairman
Progress Florida, Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director
Putnam County Environmental Council, Timothy Keyser, President
Rainbow River Conservation, Inc., Burt Eno, Ph.D., President
Reef Relief, Millard McCleary, Executive Program Director
Rehab Farm, Carol Ahearn, Owner
Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association, Jill McGuire, President
Save the Manatee Club, Katie Tripp, Ph.D., Director of Science and Conservation
Seminole United Methodist Church Community Garden, Robert Huttick, Garden Coordinator
Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, Sandy Gilbert, Chairman
Southwest Florida Watershed Council, John Cassani, Chairman
Space Coast Progressive Alliance, Philip E. Stasik, President
Speak Up Wekiva, Inc., Chuck O’Neal, Director
Springs Eternal Project, John Moran and Lesley Gamble, Co-directors
Stonecrab Alliance, Karen Dwyer, Ph.D., Co-founder
Treasure Coast Progressive Alliance, Sharon Lux, President
Tropical Audubon Society, Laura Reynolds, Executive Director